You can hear Breathe Carolina's music pretty much everywhere you go these days. You'll find it in all the expected places, of course — on alternative radio; on TV, on shows such as The Tonight Show With Jay Leno and MTV's The City — but it's also managed to infiltrate various other parts of everyday life that you wouldn't necessarily expect, from video screens in trendier shops at the mall to sports talk, where one local station has co-opted "Blackout" as part of its daily imaging. Impressive for a couple of guys who got their start playing in battle-of-the-bands competitions and who made their first songs on Garageband.
"He had these songs that were on our friend's computer, and he asked if I wanted to come and scream on them and just do something," says Kyle Evans of David Schmitt, his Breathe counterpart, with whom he became acquainted through mutual friends. "We were just kind of messing around, and we ended up having a really good time and wrote a fun song. We just kept writing songs together, and it was something different that was ours, and we just kept going. Finally, we just put them on MySpace, and then we tried to go for it."
Evans and Schmitt first became aware of each other when they played an all-day-festival type of show called Grandpa Fest. Both guys were in bands of a similar stripe: Evans was a member of Rivendale, and Schmitt was in an outfit called As Flood Waters Rose. The two eventually started hanging out together, and Schmitt later moved in with Evans and his roommates. That's when the duo first started collaborating.
The pair ended up creating a sound that melded melodic, electronic pop with a punk spirit; it was music that they could enjoy performing countless times without getting bored. As a result, you'll hear Auto-Tune and vocoder-like treatment on strands of post-hardcore vocals from Schmitt, mixed with a synthesis of R&B and electronic dance music. The two friends bring an infectious sense of fun to their music.
But while their songs are clearly informed by a sense of humor, Evans and Schmitt are not self-parodists on the order of other seemingly like-minded acts that have been slapped with the ill-conceived "crunkcore" label. Their stylistic combination, plus their clear personality and charisma on stage, clicked instantly with a young audience that, while small at first, has grown steadily and substantially over the years thanks to relentless touring and determination.
"Our first shows touring were to, like, twenty kids here and there," Evans remembers. "And it was just fighting for those twenty kids and giving them a good time. It was, and it still is, about friendship while we're out there. We just want to hang out with our friends and have them feel like they're at a place that is theirs — at least I hope that comes off. I know in part it doesn't, but that's the goal."
Breathe Carolina already has three albums — each better and more sophisticated than the last — under its belt. The musical evolution from early home recordings to last year's Hell Is What You Make It shows a band fully capable of crafting club-ready pop songs. The group is poised to release its next batch of songs, and Evans can barely contain himself.
"I'm so excited for the next album," he says. "We already have songs, and I feel like we're sitting on those songs, and it's cool having that, but I love sharing it. My lady knows: I'm the worst with surprises. Like if I get a present, I have to give it away — it's kind of like that. I just want people to hear it."
Now signed to Columbia, the band has a great amount of momentum as it heads back out on the road to join this year's edition of the Warped Tour. The outfit recently released a video for its latest single, "Hit and Run," that was evidently inspired by a night best filed under the now-famous tagline "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." In the video, footage of a crowded, sweaty show is interspersed with images of late-night party excesses and passing out in hallways, along with jump-cut editing that suggests episodic memories from a night of indulging the life of a rock star. "It's like a very Roger Rabbit-meets-Men in Black thing," says Evans. Well, sort of. "It would have been a lengthy process of animation stuff that takes a lot of time and money," he concedes. "It sucks to say we don't have that, but we're so stoked about the way the video came out. It's exactly like a chunk of what I had in my head. All the things I had been thinking would have been an hour-and-a-half movie."
The demands of a heavy touring schedule — actively touring for months at a time — have garnered Evans and Schmitt a great deal of practical experience. "I think it's just patience," notes Evans of the biggest lessons he's learned from being on the road. "You know what I mean? I feel that, especially now, it's this waiting game constantly. I've gotta go to the airport, I gotta wait there. I wait at the set. I gotta wait to get on stage, and once I'm on stage, that's all that ever matters. I feel like that's the only time that I'm not waiting. I feel like every other time I'm just waiting to get to that point. It's so crazy. All these little things we do throughout our day is like that."
All the waiting has paid off. While Breathe Carolina might seem like the proverbial overnight success to the rest of the country, folks around here, particularly the ones who've been around since the Grandpa's Music Box (aka New Song Fellowship) days, know that these guys have been at this for years and have been in their share of less-than-ideal situations.
"You have those things that people don't see," concludes Evans about the unglamorous aspect of being in a band. "Here's the end, but how did it get there?"